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Work Life

Kinship Care

The number of children who are living with a grandparent or other relative has increased dramatically in the past two decades. More than 5 percent of all children in the United States live in such arrangements. Rising divorce rates, teenage pregnancy, child abuse or abandonment, and parental substance abuse, health problems, death, or incarceration are some of the factors linked to this trend.

The Federal Government recognizes the vital role many of their employees play in the lives of their grandchildren or other relatives when they assume the role of parent to these children. There are many ways to provide support to employees at minimal cost, such as providing information and resources; offering counseling; establishing a workplace support group; and sponsoring special events. The benefits to organizations of offering such programs are improved morale, work performance, and retention; and decreased tardiness and absenteeism. The benefits to the employees' families, as a result of the information and support they receive through work/life programs, can also be significant.

This compilation of resource materials includes background information to help understand this phenomenon, and information about organizations that support grandparents and other relatives raising children; publications; videotapes; support groups; talking points for preparing proposals and speeches; related websites; and work/life programs in the Federal Government.

DEFINITION: "Kinship care is the full time care, nurturing and protection of children by relatives, members of their tribes or clans, godparents, stepparents, or any adult who has a kinship bond with a child. This definition is designed to be inclusive and respectful of cultural values and ties of affection. It allows a child to grow to adulthood in a family environment."

See Child Welfare League of America's website on Kinship Care in Child Welfare at


  • Over 2 million children in the United States are being raised solely by their grandparents or other relatives.
  • In 1998, there were 888,000 grandparent-headed families without parents present: 19 percent included both grandparents, 14 percent included grandmothers only, and six percent included grandfathers only.
  • Many relative caregivers do not seek adoption because the process may be disruptive to their family and create animosity among family members. However, opting for less permanent, or informal, arrangements may limit their rights as the child's primary caregiver.
  • Some of the issues that these caregivers may be coping with include: financial difficulties, legal issues, a child's exposure to potentially harmful and high-risk behaviors, their own or a child's health problems, lifestyle issues, distance from social resources, isolation from other family members, and trauma that precipitated their role as a caregiver.
  • The stress of caring for young children, accompanied by their own health difficulties, can be overwhelming for many older grandparents and relatives, resulting in a variety of stress-related illnesses. Generations United. Grandparents and Other Relatives Raising Children: Challenges of Caring for the Second Family, (Fact Sheet).
  • The number of children in households maintained by grandparents with their mothers increased 118 percent from 1970 to 1997.
  • The number of households with fathers present increased 217 percent from 1970 to 1997.
  • Since 1990, the greatest increase has been in those grandparent-headed households without either parent present. Between 1990 and 1998, the number of these families increased by 53 percent.
    United States Department of Commerce. (1998). Co-resident Grandparents and Their Grandchildren: Grandparent Maintained Families, (P23-198). Washington, DC: Bryson, K. & Casper, L. M. Retrieved March 30, 2000 from This is a PDF formatted file.
  • Factors that account for the increase in grandparents and other relatives raising children: death of a parent, child abuse and/or neglect, abandonment, teenage pregnancy, alcohol and drug abuse, medical problems including HIV/AIDS and mental health problems, unemployment, incarceration, divorce, family violence, and poverty.
  • Grandparent caregivers are 60 percent more likely to live in poverty than are grandparents not raising grandchildren.
  • In 1992, 78 percent of grandparents providing a home for their grandchildren faced financial hardship and 52 percent did not have the resources to meet their needs.
  • One way to categorize grandparent caregivers is by the type of care they provide. Custodial grandparents have legal custody of their grandchildren and provide daily care and decision making. Non-custodial grandparents do not have legal custody, but do provide daily care. The child's parent may or may not live in the home. Caregiver grandparents provide daily care with a focus on helping the child's parent.

    Kleiner, H. S. & Hertzog, J. (1998). Grandparents Acting As Parents. Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service. Retrieved March 30, 2000 from
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Support Groups

A support group for grandparents or other relatives raising children can be an effective way of disseminating information, sharing resources, and providing support. They may be faced with legal, financial, child care, and emotional issues that seem overwhelming when faced alone. A support group provides a means of addressing many of these issues in a small group setting where personal information will be kept confidential. The OPM publication, Establishing A Work-Site Parenting Support Group, will give you all the information you need to set up a support group in your agency.

Information about existing support groups for grandparents raising grandchildren is available from the AARP Grandparent Information Center at 202-434-2296, or local human service agencies.

Work/Life Programs

Work/life programs can assist Federal employees who are caring for a grandchild or the child of a relative. Agencies can let their employees know about family-friendly leave entitlements; child care resources; and workplace flexibilities including alternative work schedules and telework. They can refer them to their Employee Assistance Programs for personal counseling. They can make sure that employees know where to get information about Federal health benefit programs and child support enforcement procedures. For information on how to organize an event for Federal employees who are raising a grandchild or the child of a relative, see OPM's publication, How to Do a Fair, available on our website at

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Articles and Reports

Boksay, I. (1998, January 15). Grandparents face unusual problems in raising grandchildren. News-Star Online. Retrieved March 30, 2000 from

Harden, A. W., Clark, R. L., & Maguire, K. (1997). Formal and Informal Kinship Care. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved March 30, 2000 from

Kleiner, H. S. & Hertzog, J. (1998). Grandparents Acting As Parents. Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service. Retrieved March 30, 2000 from

United States Department of Commerce. (1998). Co-resident Grandparents and Their Grandchildren: Grandparent Maintained Families, (P23-198). Washington, DC: Bryson, K. & Casper, L. M. Retrieved March 30, 2000 from This is a PDF formatted file.

Woodworth, R. S. (1997). It's Not the Same the Second Time Around: Grandparents Raising Grandchildren. Washington, DC: ZERO TO THREE: National Center For Infants, Toddlers and Families. Retrieved March 30, 2000 from

Woodworth, R. S., Dabelko, H., & Hollidge, M. (1998). Respite Services to Support Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, (ARCH Factsheet 45), National Resource Center for Respite and Crisis Care Services. Retrieved March 30, 2000 from

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Many other books on the general topic of grandparenting are also available.

The Beatitudes Center for Developing Older Adults Resources. Grandparents' Guide - Helping to Raise Your Children's Children. General guide, available at no cost from The Beatitudes Center for Developing Older Adults Resources, 555 W. Glendale Avenue, Phoenix, AR, 85021-8799, 602-274-5022 or Blue Cross/Blue Shield at 602-864-4276.

Callander, J. (1999). Second Time Around: Help for Grandparents Who Raise Their Children's Kids. BookPartners, Inc. Tool kit of information and support for grandparents. ISBN: 1581510217

Carson, L. (1996). The Essential Grandparent: A Guide for Making a Difference. Health Communications, Inc. General grandparenting book for grandparents. ISBN: 1558743979

Cox, C. B. (1999). To Grandmother's House We Go and Stay: Perspectives on Custodial Grandparents. Springer Publishing Co. Comprehensive treatment of issues of custodial parents by experts for professionals. ISBN: 0826112862

Crumbley, J. & Little, R. L., (Eds.). (1997). Relatives Raising Children: An Overview of Kinship Care. Washington, DC: Child Welfare League of America, Inc. Comprehensive guide for professionals. ISBN: 0878686843

De Toledo, S. & Brown, D. E. (1995). Grandparents as Parents: A Survival Guide for Raising a Second Family. Guilford Press. A comprehensive reference book for grandparents and professionals. ISBN: 1572300305

Doucette-Dudman, D. & Lacure, J. R. (1997). Raising Our Children's Children. Fairview Press. Discussion of social, legal and emotional issues of grandparents with stories of real families. ISBN: 1577490266

Fay, J. & Cline, F. W. (1996). Grandparenting With Love and Logic: Practical Solutions to Today's Grandparenting Challenges. Cline/Fay Institute, Inc. Includes a chapter on raising grandchildren. ISBN: 0944634060

Gabel, K. & Johnston, D. (1997). A Program for Grandparent Caregivers. In Children of Incarcerated Parents (Chapter 16). The Free Press. Material of interest to professionals. ISBN: 0029110424

Hanks, R. (1997). Connecting the Generations: Grandparenting for the New Millennium. Warren Featherbone Company. Interactive format in a general grandparenting book for the baby boomer generation. ISBN: 0965510719

Houtman, S. & Rowland , B. (Ed.). (1999). To Grandma's House We--Stay: When You Have to Stop Spoiling Your Grandchildren and Start Raising Them. Studio 4 Productions. Guide for parenting a second generation of children with practical solutions to real-life problems. ISBN: 1882349059

Humphrey, J. H. (1998). Helping Children Manage Stress: A Guide for Adults. Child Welfare League of America. ISBN: 0878686681 Available for $12.95 from CWLA c/o PMDS, 9050 Junction Drive, PO Box 2019, Annapolis Junction, MD, 20701-2019, or by telephone at 800-407-6273 or email:

Kornhaber, A. & Forsyth, S. (1994). Grandparent Power: How to Strengthen the Vital Connection Among Grandparents, Parents, and Children. Crown Publishing Group. All aspects of grandparenting with a section on grandparents raising grandchildren covered with resources in appendix and extensive bibliography. ISBN: 0517598051

Kornhaber, A. (1996). Contemporary Grandparenting. Sage Publications. A comprehensive synthesis of current knowledge about grandparents and their role in families and society with a chapter on raising grandchildren. ISBN: 0803958064

Minkler, M. & Roe, K. M. (1993). Grandmothers As Caregivers: Raising the Children of the Crack Cocaine Epidemic (Family Caregiver Applications Series, Vol. 2). Sage Publications, Inc. A resource for professionals. ISBN: 0803948476

Poe, L. M. (1992). Black Grandparents as Parents. Po, Lenora Madison. A discussion of the many issues facing grandparents responsible for raising their grandchildren because of parental addiction. Appropriate for grandparents and professionals. ISBN#0963399209

Pudney, W. & Whitehouse, E. (1996). A Volcano in My Tummy - Helping Children to Handle Anger. New Society Publishers, Limited. Stories, games, and exercises to help 6 to 15 year olds handle their anger. ISBN: 0865713499

Takas, M. (1998). Relatives Raising Children. New York, NY: Brookdale Foundation Group. This book is included in the resource kit listed below. It is a wonderful guide for relatives raising children. You can order it from the Brookdale Foundation Group, 126 East 56th Street, New York, NY, 10022, or by telephone at 212-308-7355 for $4.00 to cover the cost of shipping. You will find a book review on

Westheimer, R. K. & Kaplan, S. (1998). Grandparenthood. Routledge. A comprehensive resource, advice, and information guide for all grandparents with a chapter on grandparents as parents. ISBN: 0415919487

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Bulletins, Pamphlets, and Fact Sheets

United States Consumer Product Safety Commission. A Grandparents' Guide for Family Nurturing & Safety. Washington, DC: Dr. T. B. Brazelton & A. Brown. For a free copy, contact the Consumer Information Center at 719-948-4000, and ask for Item 606; or retrieve it from

United States Office of Personnel Management and Link to Benefits Administration Letter. (December 18, 1998). Benefits Administration Letter Number 98-209, Federal Employees' Group Life Insurance: Public Law 105-3111 - Foster Children and Miscellaneous Updates. Washington, DC, This is a PDF formatted file [32 KB].

United States Office of Personnel Management and link to the Federal Employees Health Benefits Handbook . Federal Employees Health Benefits Program: A Handbook for Enrollees and Employing Offices. Retrieved March 30, 2000 from to top


Sponsor Site Description
Administration on Aging Grandparents raising grandchildren and grandparents as caregivers, resource information
Census Bureau Demographic characteristics of grandparents and grandchildren, working paper on co-resident grandparents and their grandchildren
Grandparent Foundation Information, including grandparenting research
Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Educational website for professionals and agencies
National Aging Information Center Publications and statistical information
Social Security Administration Benefits for grandchildren

NOTE: Under Federal Law, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is prohibited from ranking, endorsing, or promoting agencies or organizations listed on its website.


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